Friday, October 29, 2010

I Just Knew Dick Cheney Had To Be Connected

by Dick Mac

No matter how tenuous the connection (and this connection is better than tenuous), there had to be some way that Dick Cheney was connected to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico.

Not only his overall philosophy that government should let business do anything it wants, and that government regulation and safety concerns are over-blown at best; but, his former employer, Halliburton, did not reveal that the cement mixture being used at the well was flawed.

Halliburton is a horrible company involved is some of America's most unsavory business practices. They operate with impunity and their philosophy matches that of Cheney, who helped make the company such a success.

So, perhaps Dick Cheney wasn't directly involved in this criminal behavior; but his mark is on it. I am certain he approves of Halliburton's work and will stand by them until the end.

Panel Says Firms Knew of Cement Flaws Before Spill

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The President And The Comedian

by Dick Mac

I watched some of The Daily Show last night when Jon Stewart hosted President Obama. I wasn't really enjoying it and couldn't figure out why.

Leading up to the broadcast, I felt as though it was a bad idea for Obama to do it, and I expected it to go poorly for the embattled President. What I saw was the President answering the rather lame questions of a comedian with a late night comedy show.

Don't get me wrong: I adore Jon Stewart. I think he is one of the smartest and funniest people on television today, his show is deservedly a huge success, and the people he surrounds himself with are also very smart, very funny people.

A I watched and waited for the President to make a big mistake, he didn't. Still I was uncomfortable watching the two of them and couldn't put my finger on it. I felt as though the interview wasn't going well, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

They traded barbs, and Stewart asked his questions in his usual hesitating way as if he's just thinking up the question at that minute. I've never believed he was lost for words, and this has been some of his best acting on the show - it's part of his schtick and I like it. Usually, when he does that stumbling, hesitating build-up to a question, making it seem remarkably complex and controversial, the question is really simple and could easily be answered with a "yes" or "no," for which which some guests have opted.

When Stewart was doing this last night, the questions fell flat, they didn't have the punch or the punch-line that I would expect. It left Obama in the position to just answer the question as if he was visiting a real news program or a ladies' morning chat show.

This wasn't really funny to me, and I was expecting some smart comedy.

I couldn't put my finger on what I disliked so much until this morning, when I read the "Arts Beat" column in the New York Times. They pointed out:

Mr. Stewart seemed to feel that he needed to voice the concerns of liberals who are disappointed in Mr. Obama’s legislative record, one he described as "timid" instead of coming up with more offbeat questions of his own. And the president, who had earlier in the day answered questions from radio talk show hosts and liberal bloggers, easily parried Mr. Stewart’s complaints about the lack of real change in Washington. As is his wont, he gave long, reasoned answers about the economy, unemployment and populist frustration that Mr. Stewart couldn't or wouldn't interrupt. Sometimes, Mr. Stewart showed his own frustration by making fun of his inability to get a word in, interjecting in a high, squeaky whine, "It’s just been hard not to talk."
The TV Watch: Access and the Plight of the Political Comedian

That's it! He wasn't coming-up with the offbeat questions that I would expect, and he simply invited the President to give his standard election season answers.

I got bored with it pretty fast and tuned-out a couple of times before giving-up and going to bed.

Stewart could have asked about the dirty advertising of the G.O.P., or invited the President to talk at length about the disaster he inherited, or the selling of our nation to corporate interests -- anything besides the standard talking heads dialog. And I think Obama would have had good answers.

Stewart, and by extension, all of progressive America, lost a big opportunity last night to further the progressive theme of Obama's 2008 campaign. Instead we got a rather boring, unfunny half-hour hosted by one of television's funniest and most dynamic personalities.

Everyone's writing about it of course:

Obama makes historic appearance on 'Daily Show'

Probing questions and funny, too

Barack Obama Visits Daily Show, Jon Stewart Calls President "Timid"

Barrack Obama's less than humorous interview with Most Influential Man Jon Stewart

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Footstompin' Time In Good Old Kentucky

by Dick Mac

There was an incident at a Rand Paul rally. The guy in the picture to the left decided that the best way to resolve a conflict was to stomp on the head of a 23-year-old volunteer from MoveOn.

This woman was part of a prank where she was going to hand Rand Paul a fake "Employee Of The Month" certificate from some corporate group. Rand Paul's supporters got wind of it and took action to prevent anything from happening to their candidate.

This is what ensued:

Rand Paul campaign manager, Jesse Benton said:
The Paul campaign has disassociated itself with the individual who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.

First of all, if Rand Paul is really concerned about this type of incident, perhaps he should be a little less inflammatory in his speeches, and he should TELL teabaggers that this is unacceptable.

Second of all, this is not a problem with ". . . activists -- on both sides . . . ." This is only a problem with right-wingers, teabaggers; there is nobody on the "other" side inciting violence.

Looks like the Tea Party has what it wants, a violent overthrow of not our government, but of all civilization.

If this is what is happening at rallies, what is going to happen at polling places?

I am convinced the police will do nothing to stop the violence.

Paul volunteer ordered to court for scuffle

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happiness Is: Fox Off The Air

by Dick Mac

In my home I use the station-blocking feature of Cablevision for very few channels. First one blocked was Fox News; because, no child should ever stumble on that horror. How do you explain to a 6-year-old that her friends who are gay are hated by most of the country? How do you explain to her that most Americans think stupidity is better, and intelligence is unpatriotic? These are conversations I just don't want to have until she's a little older. I don't want her to get the idea that being a teabagger is acceptable. So, we don't talk about those things at all, yet.

News Corp., the company that owns Fox News and a string of other Fox stations, pulled some of their programming off of Cablevision because of a dispute over fees. Fox wants $150,000,000 from Cablevision, who paid $70,000,000 last year. There is nothing on television worth double the price. Cablevision wanted to keep negotiating, but News Corp., pulled a half-dozen of their stations. Sadly, they did not pull Fox News. Perhaps that's covered under a different license.

I am happy that Cablevision has stood-up to News Corp., and I don't miss Fox one bit.

Sure, it's sad that 3.5 million people will miss the World Series, but so what? It's only baseball, and it's all available on the internet anyhow. It's too bad that 3.5 million people are frustrated about missing insipid series like "Glee" and "House," but that is what Fox has decided. And we can watch the episodes online.

Personally, I'm thrilled, and I am hoping that Fox stays off the air permanently.

Can you imagine what's going to happen to their advertising prices if 3.5 million New York households no longer receive their signal? They might lose money, and that's good news. You see, Fox News does not turn a profit, it is financed by the profits from the Fox television network. So, if the main network starts losing money, perhaps Fox News will be hit with budget cuts.

I hope Cablevision stands its ground, and my suggestion is: Offer Fox $25,000,000 for their crappy stations and cut everyone's cable bill by a buck or two.

A Rocky Horror Picture Show For TV Viewers

Monday, October 25, 2010

Drug Testing

by Dick Mac

Since the 1990s, when drug-testing in the workplace became legitimized by the Supreme Court, I have maintained that employers should have the right to drug-test employees. I believe a company should have a specific policy written, and a system in place for how to handle positive results. I am concerned that drug-testing is sometimes used to isolate someone for termination, even if an employer knows other staff would deliver the same test results.

So, a company needs to decide why they are testing, and they need to be transparent about that; be honest about it so everyone understands your goals.

Are we testing because we want a completely sober and level-headed workforce?

Are we testing because we want to prevent the use and distribution of illicit drugs on our premises?

Are we testing because we are committed to a healthy workforce?

Many of the discussions about drug-testing are related to liability: how will workplace safety, and therefore our insurance rates, be affected by people using drugs?

Some of the questions to ask are: What drugs are we concerned about? What part of the workforce are we concerned about? What do we do TO the people who test positive? What do we do FOR the people who test positive?

If a company is concerned about workplace safety, and by extension insurance rates, should they be testing for legal as well as illicit drugs? Should this company be testing for alcohol?

So, once the company has written its policy and business continues, what comes next?

I assume these conversations are driven by insurance companies deciding that use of X, or the presence of Y, makes for a dangerous workplace. What happens when insurance companies decide that prescription drugs are no longer acceptable? Are they testing for pain-killers, sedatives, anti-depressants, diet pills?

When a prescription drug is found in the urine of an employee, what steps should be taken? After all, a doctor has prescribed these drugs; and it's possible that the drugs are needed because of an incident in the workplace; perhaps the employee suffers from treatable mental illness and can be successful with certain drugs.

Some companies have started terminating employees who tested positive for prescription drugs.

Hydrocodone is a powerful drug that is abused by some, and used as a pain-reliever by others. An employee was terminated because she tested for it, and although her doctor had prescribed the drug, her employer decided to terminate her.

Perhaps this employer could have met with the employee, learned about her condition, and see if there was some way to reach their goal of a safe workplace without terminating a long-time employee.

This company has knows that hydrocodone is a drug that could impair a person's judgment or motor skills, and they have decided that use of hydrocodone, even as a prescription medication, is grounds for termination.

If the list of drugs is no longer a list of "illicit drugs" but a list of "drugs that impair judgment" then what other drugs belong on the list? Certainly, alcohol belongs on the list: anyone who has had a few drinks is impaired, and a person who got hammered last night is still dangerous this morning. Prozac and other psychopharmaceuticals are, generally, mind-altering substances. If a person is generally depressed and prone to bouts of extreme mood swings, their judgment is impaired. Should they be allowed to use drugs that change their well-being? Where is the line drawn?

Can an employee be an active alcoholic in the workplace, but a person taking prescribed hydrocodone cannot? This makes no sense to me.

Any company that wants to use drug-test results as part of the criteria for employment, they should be clear about their methods, rationale, and desired outcome.

Firing people for using prescription drugs, without a thorough investigation, discussion with the physician, and an effort to find alternatives, is immoral -- it's just wrong.

Drug Testing Poses Quandary for Employers

Friday, October 22, 2010

Incident On 57th Street

by Dick Mac

It's a very busy day in the Dick Mac world, so I offer you this video of Bruce Springsteen performing his best song, "Incident On 57th Street," solo, live in Barcelona:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ari Up, 48

by Dick Mac

Ari Up, lead singer of The Slits, died yesterday, at 48 years old. The announcement from her stepfather stated only that she had died of a serious illness.

The Slits was an early punk band, starting around the same time as The Sex Pistols and The Clash, and was one of the few all-woman bands in the genre. Up was 14-years-old when she formed the band.

Her manager, Jeff Jacquin, said:
She influenced generations of women and created some of the most memorable music of our time.

Born Ariane Forster, to Der Spiegal magazine heiress Nora Forster, in 1962, she spent most of her life in London. When Forster was a teenager, her mother met and eventually married John Lydon, at that time performing as Johnny Rotten, the lead singer of seminal punk band, The Sex Pistols.

Ari's career took her around the world and she continued performing throughout her life.

She will be missed.

Ari Up page at Wikipedia

Punk singer Ari Up dies aged 48 at

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Radio Radio Redux

by Dick Mac

While researching yesterday's post about Elvis Costello's first appearance on American television and the controversy around his decision to perform "Radio Radio" instead of another song his record company instructed, I learned about this 1999 performance by Beastie Boys on the same show.

Beastie Boyse start thier Saturday Night Live performance with . . . well, I'll let you see for yourself. I found it amusing:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Legendary Moments In Rock History: Elvis Costello

by Dick Mac

I awoke this morning with Elvis Costello's song "Radio Radio" stuck in my head. Even after my morning rituals it was still there happily playing along for me. It's a good song.

I remembered that he had performed it on Saturday Night Live, in 1977, and that the performance made trouble for him. I did not see the performance, as I did not live with television from 1975 to 1983, but the story became instantly legendary and made its way through the rock music scene.

The story, as I understood it then, and all these years later, was that Elvis was instructed by Lorne Michaels, producer of SNL, to perform any song except "Radio Radio" because the executives at NBC, and their parent company, General Electric, did not like the song's criticism of the radio industry and felt it was impolitic to broadcast it. This was a very punk analysis of the incident and was keeping in the spirit of the times by injecting just the right amount of politics and rebellion into the incident.

That was the story I heard, told, and recalled from 1977 until Tuesday, October 19, 2010 (today), when I decided to write about the song and the incident.

The real story, although rebellious, isn't wrought with quite the political edge as the legendary story above. There was no standing-up to television executives during the broadcast of one of their live shows, taking a stand against the power of The Man, who has taken radio and turned it into nothing but a cash machine.

The real story, as I now understand it, is that Elvis was explicitly instructed by his label, Columbia Records, to perform "Less Than Zero." They didn't want to waste this gift of free publicity on a new, untested song that wasn't even yet scheduled for release. they wanted him to play a song from the album that was about to (finally) be released in the United States.

What was broadcast is not in question, as it is recorded: Elvis and The Attractions started playing the opening chords of "Less Than Zero" and then Elvis stops playing, waves his arms in the air, turns to the band and instructs them to play "Radio Radio."

This did anger the management team of SNL, but not because NBC didn't like the political sentiment of a song nobody had yet heard and could not hear because it was not yet available for purchase. They were angry because the blocking for the cameras had been arranged around cues in the original song and the director had to improvise.

The band was told they would never appear on American television again as they were chased out of the studio.

You can see the performance at the link below. I am unable to find a version of the video that can be embedded, so you'll have to follow the link to see it.

So, another story from my past debunked, which is very Rock 'n' Roll!

Here are the lyrics:

Radio Radio
Elvis Costello

I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
Doing anything my radio advised
With every one of those late night stations
Playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe
They really think we're getting out of control

(CHORUS) Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice
'cause they think that it's treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me

Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
And the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up,
they don't wanna hear about it
It's only inches on the reel-to-reel
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel


Wonderful radio
Marvelous radio
Wonderful radio
Radio, radio

Link to video of "Radio Radio" on SNL.

Monday, October 18, 2010

News Corp. and Cablevision

by Dick Mac

News Corporation has pulled Fox 5 New York, MY9 New York, Fox29, FOX Business News, FOX Deportes, and Nat Geo Wild, from Cablevision.

On October 15, 2010, the agreement between News Corporation and Cablevision expired. Cablevision expected a price hike from the $70 million it paid for the last contract, and News Corporation sent a bill for $150 million. More than double the original price. Cablevision will not pay that much.

News Corporation has a lot of leverage in New York, because they have been allowed to own multiple broadcast outlets in this single market. The practice was unheard of in the past. Never was a single entity allowed to own multiple television stations in the past - before deregulation became the be all and end all of American patriotism.

One of the reasons that single entities were not allowed to own multiple stations in a single market was to prevent situations exactly like this. A corporation is holding a section of the market hostage and will stop at nothing to get more money.

I am thrilled that six News Corporation channels are off-the-air. I hope more go off the air, too. New York is a pretty big market and I hope Cablevision stands firm and demands NO INCREASE in the cost of these stations. I can sacrifice a few NFL games, some MLB playoffs, and Fox's original programming.

Someone needs to stand-up to News Corporation -- they are the closest thing we have to an evil empire in the USA -- and I hope Cablevision stands firm!

If Cablevision sticks to its guns, they will become heroic in my eyes.

People who need to have these Fox outlets can switch their service to satellite or high-speed. Those of us who care nothing about these stations can stay with Cablevision. Eventually, they will come back to Cablevision, because it's the best deal: Verizon demands a two-year contract for FiOS, and the satellite technology can be lost due to weather. Cablevision has excellent internet connectivity, no contract requirements, and phone service.

In the end it's all about what you get for your money. If you need Fox, then go to the other vendors. I don't need Fox, so I'll stay with Cablevision. In the end, the bottom-line for most people is money and value.

I get good value with Cablevision. I don't like them, but I get good value.

The battle for the hearts and minds of consumers is playing-out on the internet. Here is a pro-Fox site with pages of comments. Problem with this site is that there isn't anywhere to leave a comment. This leads me to believe that News Corporation has done what they do best: they have fabricated the comments.

Cablevision has published this FAQ about News Corp. Programming, and has a Facebook site where users can leave comments.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Don't Ask

by Dick Mac

The civil rights movement that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 began, in earnest, with the bus boycott sparked by press coverage of Rosa Parks' arrest for refusing to give-up her seat to a white person, in 1955.

The dogged determination and hard work of African-American leaders was rewarded with major federal legislation to protect black Americans, in less than ten year.

Homosexuals launched their movement for civil rights a few years later in 1969 and within forty years, two pieces of major federal legislation have been passed that specifically limit the civil rights of homosexuals.

Democrats can take credit for all three pieces of legislation: Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA64), and Bill Clinton signed Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

What do you think the United States would have looked like from 1965 - 1995, if the CRA64 had not been enacted and additional legislation had been passed further limiting the civil rights of black Americans? How do you think black America would have reacted to this after forty years of fighting for civil rights?

How would liberal white America have reacted? If the Democrats had failed to pass CRA64, then passed the Miscegenation Act of 1970 and the Separate But Equal Education Act of 1985, would white America have allowed it?

I think they would not. I think that many white Americans, especially educators, lawyers, businessmen, and clerics, would have stood to be counted among those outraged that any government would consider limiting the rights of fellow Americans. I think voters in places like Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, and Washington, along with voters in some major metropolitan areas and college towns in-between would have been outraged and the Democrats would have never seen another day as a viable political party.

I know scores of white Americans who would have been so outraged, that they would be marching in the streets.

So why is it that the Democrats are given carte blanche to discriminate against homosexuals for a full forty years after that civil rights movement began? Why are otherwise kind and open-minded Americans allowing the Democrats to represent them when the Democrats have done so much to hurt homosexual Americans?

I know the argument that "well the Republicans are much worse." Honestly, though: I don't think Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, or George H.W. Bush would have ever signed a piece of legislation like DADT or DOMA - I think they would have told their party in Congress to drop it like a hot potato and find another way to reach their goals - that no self-respecting politician who likes to promote personal freedom (however disingenuously) would ever sign legislation limiting the rights of white, middle-class taxpayers.

Now, Bush II is a different story, and we will never know if he would have signed those laws; but he didn't have to, because Bill Clinton did.

DADT and DOMA are still on the books. Barack Obama promises that DADT will be repealed on his watch; but DOMA stays.

Let's go back to my scenario about CRA64 never being enacted, but anti-black marriage and education laws being passed. Imagine if a future president then repealed the anti-black education law, but left in place the marriage law with no plan to repeal it. Would that be considered acceptable?

"Why," I ask my liberal, educated, Democrat-supporting friends is this an acceptable situation?

I know: Don't Ask!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chilean Miners Rescued

by Dick Mac

The miners trapped in the San Jose Mine, in Chile, since August 10th have been rescued.

The government of Chile, the mining company, consultants, and other miners worked together tirelessly to bring the rescue mission to a successful close.

The miners have agreed that all monies received for their stories will be split equally among the group. That would be nice.

President Sebastian Pinera seemed unequivocal after Wednesday's rescue about the fate of the San Jose mine.

"This mine will definitely never open again," he said after a dizzying day in which the miners were pulled up through a narrow escape chute from nearly a half-mile down in under 23 hours — far less than originally forecast.

Pinera also said the conditions that allowed the accident "will not go unpunished. Those who are responsible will have to assume their responsibility."

Pinera said the rescue would end up costing "somewhere between $10 (million) and $20 million," a third covered by private donations with the rest coming from state-owned miner Codelco — the country's largest company_ and the government itself.
See, As Chile celebrates, mine's future in question

Here are some of my favorite graphics from the incidents (all imags used without permission):

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Protecting The One-Party System

by Dick Mac

I know the Democrats like the one-party system they have set-up with the Republicans, and they have convinced otherwise intelligent people into believing that they are really different from the GOP.

To ensure that myth continues, the DNC, RNC, and DLC (the "Demicans") do everything in their power to prevent any other parties from getting airtime during elections. It is nearly impossible for any party besides the Demicans to participate in so-called debates; ensuring that no real issues are discussed in real depth. One might call it a conspiracy, but I won't do that.

I will say that additional parties representing any position along the political spectrum are good for America. I was looking forward to the Tea Party in this election cycle, but they have proven to be just puppets of Fox News, working to replace Democrats with Republcans. They're all very angry, of course, but are too stupid to see that the GOP is just as bad for them as the evil Democrats they seem to fear so much.

The Green Party is a viable and established political party that represents the positions of most of the people I know. Most of the people I know, however, continue to support Democrats who hardly ever, if ever, represent anything we believe.

In California, Laura Wells, the Green Party candidate for governor was a ticketed guest for the gubernatorial debate between monster Meg Whitman, and buffoon Jerry Brown. When she arrived, she was arrested.

Now, that's one way to suppress opposition!

Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for governor, arrested at Whitman-Brown debate

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Picking My Nose . . .

by Dick Mac

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fan of technology and can be relied upon to consider using technology to advance the effectiveness of the municipal government. He's a really smart guy, and although I think he is too often beholden to the notion of market solutions over civil solutions, he generally does a very good job. We are lucky to have him as mayor, and he is the perfect example of why term limits are absurd.

I am a big fan of social media. I was an early pioneer at Geocities in the mid-nineties, used Friendster, then I used MySpace, and now I use Facebook. I have a Twitter account, but don't really know how to make use of it. Either I am not enough of a twit, or I am too fond of the sound of my own typing to limit my posts to 140 characters.

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg spoke a little bit about social media:

The thing that surprises me is why people want to tell others what they're doing day in and day out . . . . And you wonder, No. 1, what on Earth, why does anybody care? Why do people, why would you look at it?

It is rare that Hizzoner is at a loss for words, so his amazement by this trend is clearly sincere.

I do make status updates on Facebook at least once a day. This morning, mine is a take-off of Carl Paldino's now-famous quote about homosexuality being invalid:

Dick Mac thinks our children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that being an Italian-American is an equally valid and successful option — it isn't."

I don't recall if I ever say anything as specific as "I am picking my nose" or "I am getting coffee"; I try to be slightly more esoteric than that.

What is your status update or tweet at the moment?

Anyway, there's a short article at the Daily News site about Mayor Bloomberg and social media, and it's worth the read:

>Mayor Bloomberg may have his iPad, but hizzoner is no fan of Facebook or Twitter

Monday, October 11, 2010

Do Not Call Registry

by Dick Mac

All mobile phone numbers in the United States will become public information this month. This means that all telemarketing companies will have access to your cell phone number and can call you whenever they like.

When a telemarketer calls my home phone number, which they are not supposed to do because I am on the government's No-Call list, it is irritating, but doesn't really cost me anything. My mobile phone, however, has a limited number of minutes, and each time I answer a call, those minutes are deducted from my balance. So, it actually costs me money to have a telemarketer call. Also, if they call and I don't answer, they can leave a voice message (as long as they like, or until my setting shuts them off), and when I have to listen to an important voicemail message, I will have to spend minutes navigating through the telemarketer messages.

Remember the National Do Not Call Registry? It's a website and hot line that allows you to list the phone numbers which you do not want telemarketers to call.

It's time to get familiar with the Do Not Call Registry again.

There are two methods for listing your phone(s):

1. Call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want listed as 'do not call,' and follow the prompts to enter the phone number; or

2. Go to the National Do Not Call Registry website and register there.

Irrespective of which method you use, you can then verify the listing at the site by receiving an email. I recommend you verify.

It takes a month for the listing to take effect, so take action immediately.

Friday, October 08, 2010

File This Under Stupid

by Dick Mac

There are times that companies change their product or their marketing, even their logo. When those changes are a success, we hear nothing about the change. When they fail, they tend to fail big.

I am thinking about New Coke from the 1980s. Coca-Cola had changed their formula many times over the years, but never advertised it. I think most people never noticed.

Then, some marketing person with the imagination and intelligence of a slug, decided it would be a good idea to capitalize on the pending adjustment to the formula. Coke decided to take a brand that was loved and trusted by millions (billions?) of consumers and say: "Hey, we've taken your favorite soft drink and fucked with it."

It did not turn out very well. Coke saw major defections from their brand, even from people who claim to embrace brand-loyalty were furious with the soft-drink distiller.

Coke relented and introduced "Coke Classic," pretending to distribute the original version of their soft drink. Of course, it wasn't their original formula, it may not even have been the most recent formula. It didn't matter, the damage had been done.

Pepsi sales and advertising sky-rocketed.

It appears that the same people who thought-up the New Coke campaign have found another job: destroying Gap.

I am not a Gap consumer, so I don't really care one way or another if their brand suffers from their current decision; but, look at this:

This is the new logo that Gap thinks will bring it into a better place!

It looks like an entry on the periodic table! It's really unappealing, and why would anyone move away from one of the most successful logos of the past 40 years?

As one person commented on the web: "If they wanted good marketing, maybe they should start by lowering their prices."

I have not heard if Gap is lowering its prices, which would be a good idea; but I also haven't heard that they are restoring their old logo.

Well, there are stupid people everywhere, I guess, and today they are working for The Gap!

Gap Redesigns Logo ... But Why?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Your Life Can Be Transformed Forever

by Dick Mac

There are times when I am moved to tears. OK, maybe not to sobbing tears, but to a deeply felt sadness that chokes me up and makes me weep. Quietly.

Sometimes it's an advertisement for destitute children in not-so-faraway places, it can be a movie, even a televisions show.

Lately it's been teen suicide, and in particular, teen suicide by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning teenagers. Young people whose sense of themselves as adults with sexual inclinations are confused by the messages they get from the world around them.

In some ways it was easier in the 1970s and earlier when being LGBTQ was simply unacceptable. You knew which side of the line you lived on and you were on the wrong side of the line and that was that.

Many changes have taken place over the past forty years, but things haven't gotten easier for LGBTQ youth; in fact it may have gotten harder.

I assumed that other oppressed minorities would come to the aid of homosexuals the same way that many homosexuals have come to the aid of other oppressed minorities. Instead, some of the most powerful people in other minority groups are the most vociferous anti-gay people in America.

The word 'gay' is now synonymous with negativity to a greater degree than the word nigger ever was. "That's so gay!" is a remark I hear all the time. "He's such a fag!" is another one.

If I said to another person: "he's such a nigger!" I would be ostracized, could lose my job, would certainly lose friends, and would pay some price for the remark. These days, however, it is commonplace to hear children and adults alike use the word 'gay' in a disparaging tone.

This has to stop. It's killing people.

And if you are a young LGBTQ person out there, I hope you take some comfort knowing that I understand. I was there, and I know how painful it is. I know it seems like it will never get any better. It will get better.

Tim Gunn, gay television icon extraordinaire recently released this video clip:

Here is the link to the Trevor Project that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth:

The Trevor Project

If you need their help, call them. If you kill yourself, you can't start over again. If you reach out for help, your life can be transformed forever.

If you have a few dollars to spend, please donate.

Oh! In passing: If you oppose equal rights for homosexuals, if you support Don't Ask Don't Tell, if you oppose gay marriage: you are a scourge on the Earth and you are responsible for the bullying, torture, suicide, and murder of young Americans.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Obion County, Tennessee, Firefighting Policy

This is a picture of a firefighter who stood by and watched a citizen's home burn to the groundby Dick Mac

I have heard of a controlled fire, or controlled burn, when firefighters allow one thing to burn in the hope of saving other things. It's always made sense to me.

This story of firefighters allowing a fire to burn is not about controlling a larger disaster, it is about being punitive to a family who failed to participate in a money-gouging scheme by Obion County, Tennessee.

Please watch:

Although the homeowner told the fire department he would pay them any amount of money that it cost to extinguish the inferno, they decided to ignore his plea and teach him a seventy-five dollar lesson. I have no way of knowing if the homeowner learned his lesson. He might be a person who believes that the government is gouging him yet again, that he already pays too many taxes, and that he has a right to fire protection. He might not be able to afford the seventy-five dollars.

I wonder if this person without seventy-five dollar fire protection had homeowners' insurance. I wonder if the insurance company will have to pay for the total loss of the home. I wonder what insurance companies think of this pay-as-you-go fire plan.

To me, paying seventy-five dollars for fire protection is a no-brainer. Of course you pay it. The problem for me, the thing I can't wrap my head around is why the County would charge seventy-five dollars to some residents when everyone could be protected for thirteen cents per household.

The County did a study concluding that an annual fee of .13 (thirteen cents) per household in Obion County would be sufficient to cover the costs of the few municipalities protecting the surrounding rural areas.
(See, A Presentation Regarding The Establishment And Implementation of a County-Wide Fire Department). These days, however, we wouldn't want to allow the evil government to impose a thirteen cent tax, because taxes are bad and government is too big; it is better to charge just some of the people $75.00 that they can then choose to pay! And in America, of course, anyone who chooses to not pay the piper will be punished, not helped, not levied additional charges. Nope, you will simply be punished, because a small government has to do that. I guess.

This incident has added gasoline to the fire of the "role of government" debate. So-called conservatives and libertarians think this is, generally, a good scheme. Even conservatives who are offended by the end-result of this incident generally support the underlying notion of pay-as-you-go, small government.

It is important to remember that this so-called conservatism that has swept the nation these past thirty years will lead to more incidents like this, and it will lead to a bankrupt, huge, bloated government; because nobody bloats government spending like Republicans. Just look at the past thirty years of our history: every Republiccan has bloated the budget and burdened working people, while every Democrat has reduced the budget and helped working people.

Conservative talker Kevin Williamson has said:
These free-riders have no more right to South Fulton's firefighting services than people in Muleshoe, Texas, have to those of NYPD detectives.
(See, Pay-for-Spray Fire Department: Doing the Right Thing)

The difference, Mr. Williamson, between the South Fulton Fire Department and the NYPD, thankfully, is that liberal New Yorkers would send the NYPD to Muleshoe, Texas, if they were needed; because that's what liberals do: they help others, no matter the cost. We would help, and sort out the cost later.

I can't imagine any firefighter I know standing-by and letting someone's home burn down -- especially if they are on a firetruck! What kind of person takes a job as a firefighter then watches someone's home burn down? What kind of people are these? How do they look at themselves in the mirror?

I think we should ask!

Here is the contact information for Tommy J. Smith, Fire Chief of South Fulton, whose men stood by and watched a home burn to the ground.

Here is the City of South Fulton (Obion County) Municipal Resources page.

You can visit the Obion County Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page.

Here is Obion County Government website.


Rural Tennessee fire sparks conservative ideological debate

After Firefighters Watched Home Burn, Obion County Expands Subscription-Only Fire Service To More Towns

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Dear Neighbor:

by Dick Mac

I know you got the parking space against the wall, which means you really only got half of a parking space. Still, I think that's better than having no parking space. What do you think?

We live in Brooklyn, and parking is at a premium. We are both very lucky to have access to, and be able to afford, indoor parking. I always feel something of a kinship with other urbanites with whom I share little amenities like a designated parking spot. We are lucky, indeed.

I've been in my parking spot for five years. Doesn't seem possible -- time flies. In that time, three other families besides you have used the half-spot next to me. Just before you it was my friends, so it was easy to negotiate how we could maximize their use of the space so they had at least one side of the car with plenty of access for kids, groceries, luggage, bundles, guests, etc.

I am happy to help you have reasonable access to your half parking spot; but I can't do that by having you park in both my spot and your spot.

You see, there's a line painted on the floor of the garage that demarkates our spots. The idea is that we will both park a distance from the line to allow each other room to open our doors.

If you park on the line, or across the line, neither one of us can open our doors. This has to be more frustrating for you than me, because it is always your driver-side door that is short of space, and you leave your passenger door a bit of space against the wall.

How's this working for you?

I'll bet not well.

It's not working well for me, that's for sure.

You need to stop parking in my spot and you need to keep the wheels of your car in your spot, off the line. I know you have a crappy space, and I am happy to help make it an easier spot for you to use; but, you have to work with me.

Here's the deal: if you'll stop parking on the line and move your car against the wall as it should be, I will endeavor to park as far away from the line as possible to provide you the maximum amount of space on the side of your car that abuts my space.

Here's the caveat: each time you hug the line, I will hug the line, too, and you will have no access to your driver's side door. You will have to enter through your passenger door and climb over the seat to get into your car. That's got to stink.

You have all the power: the choice is yours!

Let's not have to resort to leaving notes. I hate leaving notes, because I'm really bad at it.

If you think this blog entry sounds bitchy, wait 'til you read my notes!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Coincidentally, I'm Not Travelling

by Dick Mac

The governments of Japan and the United States have issued warnings to the citizenry about travelling to Europe.

On October 3, 2010, the State Department of the United States issued a statement that starts:

The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to the potential for terrorist attacks in Europe. Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks. European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.
(See, Travel Alert, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Bureau of Consular Affairs)

Fortunately, I have no travel plans because, well, I can't afford to travel. I have managed to stay employed, but I am in no position to go into debt for a trip and I don't dare use savings to travel.

I love Europe. I look forward to taking my daughter to Paris, London, Milan, Florence, Krakow, Amsterdam, Prague, and scores of other European destinations. Just not now.

Because of a different, more immediate form of terrorism, I daren't go to Europe. it's not the threat of radical religious people randomly wiping-out groups of innocent people; it's supply-side economic theory and the decision by the American voting public to spend the last thirty years electing politicians hell-bent on pushing America's wealth to the top and leaving the rest of us behind.

It is terrifying to know my job isn't secure. Still, I have to get on the subway each day and travel 90 minutes to a location where my job is held like the Sword of Damocles over my head. Either I shut-up, suck-it-up, and get my work done, or I can be unemployed for the rest of my life. (At my age, I am likely in my last job, as companies do not hire people of a certain age.) Working conditions are terrible. Nobody is happy at my workplace, although everyone is grateful, and the people who own the company know they can save money (although they are making more money than ever before) by cutting staff and benefits and those spared the axe to do more for less.

And they are correct. Everyone today that has a job will pretty much do whatever they have to do to keep that job; and management knows it.

It is terrifying to think about losing my job. I have a family to support and I can't imagine struggling on unemployment and food stamps, then charity when the savings run out.

That is terror.

So, because of the terror I suffer at home, I don't dare spend any money travelling to Europe, where my government thinks total strangers might hurt me.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tyler Clementi

by Dick Mac

Is this the hardest blog entry I have ever written?

The suicide of Tyler Clementi has upset me and driven me to tears.

I remember being poked fun at. I remember being called a fag and a sissy. Sometimes I yelled back in a vain attempt to defend myself, sometimes I swallowed my pride, laughed and either took the abuse or walked away. It all stopped when I just accepted the taunts and used the words to describe myself.

It was the 1970s and it was pretty outrageous to say I was a fag but it stopped all the taunts. It became part of my political identity, who I was in the world, and it was empowering.

It was the 1970s, I had a very supportive family, and I gravitated to other teenagers who took the same approach to the confusion that is teenage sexuality. I also watched some teenagers close into their shells and personalize the hate and become depressed.

For me, being a fag represented much more (much, much more) than a sexual orientation. It meant I was different from the average Joe, I had different ideas than most people, I cared more about the world than did my peers who weren't fags, I thought creatively about the way the world worked. It was a lifestyle that freed me from the bondage of normalcy, of dullness, of conservatism. I was free to become the person God intended me to be.

It was a long road from the first time I was called names to the day I stepped into the freedom of self. I learned a myriad of survival techniques, most of which were either self-destructive or hurtful to other people. There were times I cried. I found ways to block-out the pain and the shame. I became a bit of a clown in my social circles, diverting the conversation away from the taunts to jokes about others. At times I picked on those weaker than me to get the heat off of myself.

Two days ago when I read an article about Tyler Clementi, those memories flooded all over me and I broke down. First I sobbed quietly at my keyboard, and then I found myself in the bathroom actually weeping, and then the sadness and tears gave way to the real underlying feeling: anger.

As much as I have accepted the past, and taken responsibility for my part in the events that formed the man I am today, I cannot suppress the anger I feel when I see a weaker person tormented by bullies. Not that I haven't learned about the roots of my own bullying: the insecurity that feeds the need to appear stronger or better than the next person. I understand why bullies bully, and I understand why victims live in quiet acquiescence or lash out against the bullies. I get it. It took many years, but I get it.

Tyler Clementi was victimized in a horrible way: his actual intimate moments were stolen by a person he was expected to trust, and that person broadcast that intimacy to the world.

His roommate, Dharun Ravi, and another classmate, Molly Wei, conspired to record a sexual encounter between Tyler and another man, then broadcast it on the internet, and had a good laugh about it.

I would rather be beaten. I can't imagine being exposed or violated in that manner by a person with whom I share a home. This brings homophobic harassment to another level.

Tyler couldn't live with the humiliation. He took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. I sit here knowing the thoughts that went through his head, the hopelessness of his situation, his inability to see other options as he approached the bridge. I can only imagine the terror of falling to his death.

Most people are outraged.

If you are outraged it is important that you tell everyone that Tyler Clementi represents all of us. You are Tyler Clementi, I am Tyler Clementi, and we have to stop the culture of hate that allows incidents like this.

Ellen DeGeneres released a video about the incident: An Important Message from Ellen DeGeneres on Facebook

The Facebook page In Honor of Tyler Clementi allows people to post a message.

Many people are angry, and some have taken to Facebook to disparage the perpetrators: Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are sick F*cks

And then there are the news articles:

Before a Suicide, Hints in Online Musings

Tyler Clementi's body ID'd - Rutgers freshman committed suicide after sex video was streamed on web

Here's a Google news search for you.